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Low-Cost Ventilator from Home Depot Components: Interview with Glen Meyerowitz, UCLA
Low-Cost Ventilator from Home Depot Components: Interview with Glen Meyerowitz, UCLA Biodesign Fellow
The current shortage of ventilators during the COVID-19 pandemic has sparked significant innovation, including novel designs to split one ventilator into two, repurposing of existing devices to function as ventilators, and new solutions to reduce the need for ventilators. However, perhaps all of these innovations, and more, will be needed to account for the shortfall in ventilators, especially given the speed at which the pandemic is progressing.

This latest development sees Glen Meyerowitz, a UCLA Biodesign Fellow, design a low-cost ventilator prototype using components from Home Depot, a chain of U.S. hardware stores. Strikingly, Glen developed and assembled the ventilator in less than a week, and drew on his experience working at SpaceX to develop the functional device, despite having no direct experience making medical devices. conventional ventilators, which can cost up to $50,000, the new ventilator is inexpensive and, crucially, can provide enough functionality to treat COVID-19 patients, including control of respiratory rate and tidal volume. While a final cost for the ventilator is not yet known, with mass production the researchers collaborating with Glen expect that it may cost in the region of $1,000 per unit.

See a video about the ventilator below

Medgadget had the opportunity to talk to Glen about his technology.

Conn Hastings, Medgadget: Please give us an overview of the current shortage of ventilators during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the need for low-cost alternatives.

Glen Meyerowitz:The COVID-19 pandemic has ravaged fragile healthcaresystems across the globe for months. I have watched as systems that aredesigned to treat tens of patients are now forced to provide care to hundreds ofpatients or more at a time. From China to Italy, and now within the US, ourhealth care infrastructure is struggling to support this sudden surge. Thissurge presents many issues, including a shortage of PPE and trained staff, butone issue that is particularly relevant for COVID-19 is the lack of mechanicalventilators because COVID-19 is primarily a respiratory illness which oftenrequires mechanical ventilation to properly care for a patient.

Modern mechanical ventilators are verycomplicated and expensive devices. They use advanced valving and sensors toprovide a variable flow rate of gas to the patient’s lungs. This complexitymeans that they are difficult to produce in large quantities in a short timespan, even for an existing design. My hope is that we can develop a novelventilator design that is dramatically simpler, and that will manifest in lowercost, ease of manufacturing and operation, and lower maintenance for staffusing these devices.

Medgadget: What inspired you to develop the ventilator? Have you had experience making similar equipment before?

Glen Meyerowitz:My brother is an infectious disease fellow in Bostonand he and I were chatting over the last several weeks about the impact thatthe ventilator shortage will have on hospitals in the US. After we talked inearly March, I started to look at the operating principles for ventilators andthe clinical requirements for treating patients with COVID-19. It becameobvious to me very early on that traditional mechanical ventilators are muchmore complicated than they need to be in order to treat patients with COVID-19,since those devices are designed to treat a much wider range of respiratoryissues for any patient that may come into an ICU.

After finishing my undergraduate studies, Ispent about five years working as an engineer at SpaceX where I developedsystems to test the propulsion systems of rockets and spacecraft. While my timeat SpaceX may not appear to be directly applicable to developing medicaldevices, there are actually a large number of similarities. Both require a highlevel understanding of the system you are working with, safety is a toppriority, and it is important to understand the connecting systems andenvironments where these will be used. My experiences and training in my career,along with the support provided by the UCLA Biodesign program, have beentremendously valuable to enable rapid design and prototyping of thisventilator.

Medgadget: Was it a challenge to make the ventilator using low-cost, easy-to-find components?

Glen Meyerowitz:Making the ventilator itself was one of the easierparts of this entire process. Once I had the design completed, I was able to goto Home Depot and purchase off-the-shelf items which met the needs of thesystem. While I do not have experience with medical devices, I have asignificant amount of experience designing fluid and plumbing systems from mytime at SpaceX and this work is a very simple extension of that experience.

Medgadget: What type of respiratory support can this new ventilator provide, compared with pre-existing expensive hospital ventilators?

Glen Meyerowitz:Clinicians have been involved with the development ofthis novel ventilator since Day One. Because of that, I have worked to ensurethat it meets the clinical needs of patients with COVID-19 and has theflexibility to be used in an ICU setting where you need a ventilator with awide range of features. The ventilator provides the user the ability to varytidal volume, respiratory rate, fraction of inspired oxygen, pressures, andother parameters that are important for ICU settings. While it cannot doeverything a $50k unit can, the flexibility we give to users at this pricepoint and with such a simple interface has received tremendously positivefeedback.

Medgadget: What are the next steps for the ventilator? Do you intend to conduct clinical tests?

Glen Meyerowitz:My team has launched an IndieGogocampaign to help raise funds to support this project. The money will godirectly to support the development and testing of this ventilator, and we hopeto have it ready for large-scale production soon.

I have been very happy to receive supportfrom UCLA over the course of this project. I am a current graduate student inElectrical and Computer Engineering at the UCLA Samueli School of Engineeringand starting this August, I will be a fellow in the UCLA Biodesign program. I am excited tocontinue to be supported by UCLA Healthand the UCLA School of Engineering to keep this project moving forward and toget it into clinical testing. I am hoping to make use of the UCLA SimulationCenter at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and once I review thatpre-clinical data, the next step would be to look at the requirements forclinical testing of this device.

I have received a tremendous amount ofsupport from clinicians, including some physicians at UCLA Health and othersacross the country, on this project, and their continued support and insight iscritical to a successful and rapid clinical test campaign.

Medgadget: Do you have any plans to develop any other medical technologies to assist with the COVID-19 pandemic, or beyond?

Glen Meyerowitz: I am fully consumed by the project to develop a simple and low-cost ventilator to help in the COVID-19 response. During the myriad conversations I have had with clinicians and individuals who are involved in the fight against COVID-19, I have seen a number of areas where I feel other improvements can be made and novel technology can be developed to help clinicians to provide higher quality treatment for patients. I would love to continue to grow the network of clinicians and health care professionals who I interact with in order to better understand the problems they face so that once we are beyond the COVID-19 pandemic, we can all work together to improve the foundations that our health care system is built on to make sure we are better able to respond to future emergencies.
More from UCLA: Biodesign Fellow Builds Low-Cost Ventilator Prototype

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